Reciprocal Health Care Agreements or RHCA’s, are designed to help Australians travelling overseas cover emergency medical costs, or access medical attention that cannot wait until they have returned home. In Australia, we are lucky to have eleven Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with different countries around the globe.
While the systems are vital in helping Australian travellers, it’s important to remember that the agreement is not a blanket cover for all medical costs. There are many conditions and exemptions to the agreements, depending on which country the agreement is with. Smartraveller recommends getting travel insurance for people who are travelling internationally, to help bridge any gaps in the health care agreements.
The participating countries also enjoy the benefits of our public health system when visiting Australia, with costs being charged back to the person’s country of origin. In this way, Australia has formed the agreements with countries whose health care systems closely mirror our own and who roughly share the same amount of visitors between the two countries. The RHCA’s have some amazing benefits for the participating countries, but it is still not deemed to be as comprehensive as travel insurance.
Countries Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with:
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, still have to pay for some of the costs
- Covers: hospital stays, services rendered in hospital, GP services up to 60% of costs covered, dental work if you have a referral from a doctor, 50% of ambulance costs
- Doesn’t cover: some medicines, health services not included in the package
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, need to pay a client fee for all treatment in the public health system
- Covers: medical and nursing care from health centres, out-patient care from hospitals, prescription medications, some travel costs to get medical care
- Doesn’t cover: hospital accommodation fees, specialist or out-patient care fees, if you’re a student
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, within six months of arrival, organised through the national health service, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale
- Covers: hospital or out-patient care in public and authorised hospitals, GP and specialist care from public and health clinics, urgent dental care
- Doesn’t cover: medicines and tests
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, within six months of arrival
- Covers: care in a government hospital including, operations, medicine, nursing care, accommodation and meals, out-patient care provided by specialists in government service, care at health centres by public doctors and nurses, emergency ambulance travel, emergency dental care
- Doesn’t cover: non-urgent dental work, dental prostheses and appliances
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, within twelve months of arrival
- Covers: nursing and specialist care in hospital, prescription medicine – part or full refund, ambulance or taxi travel – part or full refund, GP, specialist or psychiatric care from doctors
- Doesn’t cover: single room stays in hospital unless necessary, non-specialist dental care over 18 years old, psychiatric care under 18 years of age, repatriation costs
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, within two years of arrival
- Covers: hospital care, maternity services, pharmaceuticals
- Doesn’t cover: care from a GP or other primary care, medicines, ambulance travel
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, within twelve months after you arrive
- Covers: NIS – GPs, hospitals, out-patient care, specialist care, ambulance travel, emergency dental, free health care for children under twelve, free doctor visits for children up to sixteen, birth care, oxygen therapy and dialysis
- Doesn’t cover: if you’re a student or diplomat
The Republic of Ireland
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, within twelve months of arrival, need to pay a fee for each service
- Covers: care as a public patient in a public hospital, maternity care, part of the cost of prescription drugs if you spent over a set amount
- Doesn’t cover: private patient care or accommodation in hospital, prescription medications below a set amount, anything arranged before arrival in the country, GP visits
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, need to pay part of the cost for some services
- Covers: part of the costs for public medical treatment including hospitals, health centres and pharmacies, part of the cost of medical treatment by private GPs, specialists, dentists and pharmacies contracted to the HIIS, emergency ambulance travel with a referral, 30% of prescription medicines on a set list
- Doesn’t cover: care from GP’s, specialists and dentists not contracted to HIIS, medicines not on the set list, 90% of the cost of medicines on the interim list and 90% of the cost of any other ambulance travel
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, need to pay a small fee for each service
- Covers: care from doctors, care as an out-patient at a hospital, free health services for children, free maternity services, part of the cost of prescription medicines
- Doesn’t cover: Daily hospital fees
The United Kingdom
- Conditions: treatment that cannot wait till you get home, within six months of arrival, in the Nations Health Service System (NHS), need to pay a small fee for some services
- Covers: care from a NHS doctor or nurse, care in a public ward, out-patient care at a NHS hospital, ambulance travel to NHS facilities, prescription medicines if treated as NHS patient
- Doesn’t cover: non-subsidised medicines, dental services
Even dual citizens need to be careful when relying on international health care services. In many countries, dual citizenship doesn’t mean that you get automatic access to national services such as health care, especially if you don’t pay taxes to that particular country.
While the RHCA’s are an incredible resource for Australians travelling overseas, it’s always important to ensure that you are completely covered for all your health costs. Having travel insurance is vital to safeguarding your health while you travel overseas.